This is the final division in my pre-season predictions, so it is fitting that it comes out on NHL opening night. I have already written about the Pacific, Central and Metropolitan Divisions. I have also listed a predicted order of finish in the West Conference.
Here we go with the Atlantic Division:
1. Tampa Bay Lightning. Steve Stamkos is returning to a team that also has Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat providing offence. Victor Hedman has become one of the better defencemen in the game. Anton Stralman provides depth. Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy are the best goalie tandem in the NHL. There is a lot to like about this team. They might make a Stanley Cup run this year.
I am continuing my pre-season predictions with the Metropolitan Division. I have already looked into the West Conference and its Pacific and Central Divisions. I need to make my at least annual complaint that this is a stupid division name. Metropolitan does not describe any region of the world and I am at a loss to explain how Columbus is more metropolitan than Chicago or Los Angeles.
Here we go with the Metropolitan Division:
1. Washington Capitals. The defending Presidents Trophy winner will take another run at the top in the league. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom may be the bet threesome of forwards on any team in the NHL. Justin Williams and TJ Oshie offer some depth. On defence, John Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner are a solid group, though they lack a true superstar. Braden Holtby is the defending Vezina Trophy winner in goal. He will be hard-pressed to repeat Vezina success, but is one of the better goalies in the league.
I am continuing my pre-season predictions by listing my predicted order of finish in the West Conference. I already have written blurbs for the teams in question in the Pacific Division and the Central Division.
Here are the West Conference teams by predicted order of finish:
1. Los Angeles Kings
2. St Louis Blues
3. San Jose Sharks
4. Chicago Blackhawks
5. Dallas Stars
6. Anaheim Ducks
7. Nashville Predators
8. Calgary Flames
Here is the second instalment of my pre-season NHL predictions for 2016/17. Yesterday I posted my Pacific Division predictions and today I move onto the Central Division.
Here we go with the Central Division:
1. St Louis Blues. Ken Hitchcock has announced he will retire as a coach at the conclusion of this season and should go out with a strong season. There is a deep defence built around Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeeter, Colton Parayko and Kevin Shattenkirk. This group will be tough for any team to score on. Jake Allen is the clear starting goalie. It will be interesting to see if he can give a top flight performance or not, but one may not be necessary. Offensively Vladimir Tarasenko is one of the better scorers in the game. Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny and Robby Fabbri provide enough scoring depth that the Blues should be able to win most nights.
With the regular season coming up, it is time to begin my pres-season predictions. I am going to begin with the Pacific Division and fill in the other divisions over the next few days.
Here we go:
1. Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are relatively rested after a first round loss in the playoffs last year and a playoff miss the year before. This had been a team that had three deep playoff runs in the years before that. Anze Kopitar is a first class forward and Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Marian Gaborik are solid depth. Drew Doughty is arguably the best defenceman in hockey. Jake Muzzin and Brayden McNabb are strong defencemen. Jonathan Quick is a top level goaltender. This is a team that is a solid contender and could make another Stanley Cup run.
The World Cup of hockey completed in Toronto on Thursday. Canada swept Europe in the finals two games to none. Had there been a third game it would have been played tonight. Here is my report on the round robin portion of the tournament and here is my report on the semi-finals.
The finals were two games that were won by Canada but they were not dominant in either game. Europe pushed Canada to closer games than any of the teams they played earlier in the tournament. This is impressive given that Europe was the lowest rated team going into the tournament according to Las Vegas odds at the outset of the tournament.
The semi-finals have just completed at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. Look back at the round robin results here.
Here are semi-final results:
Canada 5 Russia 3. Canada was the more dominant team here. They outshot the Russians 47-34. Carey Price was the winning Canadian goal. Sergei Bobrovsky was the losing goalie for Russia. Sidney Crosby led the way for Canada with a goal and two assists. Brad Marchand scored two goals. Patrice Bergeron and Marc-Edouard Vlasic each contributed two assists. Nikita Kucherov led the Russian offence with a goal and an assist. Evgeni Kuznetsov also scored a goal and Artemi Panarin added a disputed goal late in the game to make the final score closer than it should have been. Canada advances to the World Cup finals.
The round robin portion of the World Cup of Hockey completed yesterday. All of the games took place in Toronto's Air Canada Centre. The teams are divided into two four team groups that each played a round robin. Group A consists of Canada, the Czech Republic and USA as well as a Team Europe that consists of players from European countries that were otherwise not going to be repesented in the tournament. Group B consists of Finland, Russia and Sweden as well as a Team North America that consists of North American players 23 years old and younger. These players were not eligible to play on Team Canada or Team USA.
Here are the results:
The World Cup of Hockey is well underway. Probably the most interesting result is the Team USA has no chance to make the playoffs in the tournament. They have lost both of their games so far. They lost ot Team Europe 3-0 and then to Team Canada 4-2. They meet team Czech Republic tomorrow but have no mathematical chance to make the playoffs.
The problem with Team USA is partly a small sample size of games. It can be hard to hit your stride in a short tournament. Any team that has a poor start is soon eliminated. However their problems go far beyond that. Team USA was a poorly built team. The logic given for the team's player selection that left out Phil Kessel, Tyler Johnson, Kyle Okposo, Justin Faulk and Kevin Shattenkirk was that they would build a tough grinding team that was built to defeat Team Canada. It turns out that team couldn't beat Team Canada when it counted. They couldn't beat Team Europe either. That isn't too surprising given the talent that they let go in the selection process. In the place of those players are tough grinders in Justin Abdelkader, David Backes, Brandon Dubinsky, Erik Johnson and Jack Johnson. It would be a poor move of any team to give up that talent for the group of grinders.
I recently wrote a post detailing my injury replacements to my World Cup teams. I had selected teams for Team Canada and Team USA. Since that point there has been one more injury to replace. Tyler Seguin is hurt and will miss the tournament for Team Canada. I will replace him with his teammate Jason Spezza. Spezza has past Olympic experience and was the top scoring Canadian forward last year who is not already going to the World Cup. I find it interesting that he hasn't been seriously considered to make the team. Is it because he plays a second line role in Dallas behind Seguin and Jamie Benn? Practically this means he gets less power play time than he otherwise would and still manages to score. I would add Spezza to my Tam Canada as the final injury replacement.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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